Why Microsoft Should Make IE Open Source

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Microsoft looks to Internet Explorer 9 to help it retain the lead in browsers, and possibly increase market share. But maybe it's time for Microsoft to try something far more radical: Make Internet Explorer open source.

Microsoft is betting that IE 9's increased speed and better adherence to HTML 5 standards will stem the erosion of IE's market share. I'm not sure that's enough, though. Firefox and Chrome are gaining on IE at least in part because of the vibrant ecosystem of developers who write add-ins for those browsers.

Making IE open source could help quickly build a similar ecosystem for IE, and help fend off Firefox and Chrome. In addition, if Microsoft made IE open source, it could take some of the ideas that developers come up with for the browser itself, and incorporate them into its version of the browser. Better ideas are at a premium; this would be a cheap way to get them.

Making IE open source would not lead to any revenue loss for Microsoft, because IE is free, and so not a revenue generator. Even though IE doesn't generate revenue, it's still important to Microsoft for a variety of reasons, including helping build market share for Bing. But it's not as if Microsoft needs to publicize IE; anyone who uses Windows already has the browser on his PC. And making IE open source could potentially help Bing, because some developers might leave Bing as the default search engine if they build their own IE versions.

Turning IE into open source software, of course, is antithetical to just about everything that Microsoft stands for. That, in itself, may be reason enough to give it a try --- it's been a long time since Microsoft was seen as an market-leading innovator, and doing it would certainly go a long way towards helping re-establish that image

This story, "Why Microsoft Should Make IE Open Source" was originally published by Computerworld.

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